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Overcoming Objections from Insurers

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As a body shop manager, Brian Hinton has to scale lots of obstacles. Dealing with customers’ expectations, for one thing, can seem like a mountainous challenge.

But getting insurers to sign off on parts usage? That’s an everyday issue that can cause massive headaches for collision repair managers.

“That,” Hinton said, “is the biggest hurdle we have.”

So, how can a body shop manager navigate that fine line between appeasing insurers, while also making sure customers are happy? Hinton, the veteran manager at Chapman Collision Center in Tempe, Ariz., has pondered that issue at length. Here are his suggestions to industry peers:


Focus on OEM Specifications.

In the experience of Hinton, whose facility has a 94 percent CSI rating, one school of thought will rarely lead a body shop astray. That philosophy: concentrating on fixing vehicles to manufacturers’ guidelines.

“We want to do what’s right for the car and right for the customer,” Hinton noted. “And, ultimately, when you’re the one that’s liable for the repairs, you want to do what the manufacturer says, as opposed to what’s written on a customer’s policy.”

More often than not, the Arizonan added, if body shops and insurance companies are willing to give a bit here and there on occasion, the two sides can usually find an acceptable meeting point. But meeting OEM specifications should be a body shop’s chief concern.


Keep Lots of Data.

Just like a fine lawyer considers all evidence, body shop managers need every bit of documentation to support their debates with insurers. That’s why, at Chapman Collision Center, the staff keeps note of every part and repair procedure that has worked in the past, along with documentation of what didn’t work so well in the past.

That way, Hinton explains, “we don’t waste our time trying to get another product in that we know isn’t going to work 90 percent of the time.

“We keep a database full of common things that we run into; if you know a fender’s not going to fit on a specific model, then there’s no reason to order that fender every single time that model comes in here. A lot of times we work with [insurers] doing that, and they’re okay with that—as long as we have that data to show them.”


Pick Your Battles.

Ultimately, it isn’t worth it, in Hinton’s opinion, to fight tooth and nail with insurers frequently. Because, before long, you’ll develop a bad reputation with that company, putting your facility in position to possibly lose a direct-repair program.

“In the long run,” Hinton said, “if [insurers] are adamant, and they’re stuck in this battle, then figure out a way to price match—say ‘Alright: on this one, it is what it is; we’ll price match. We come from the approach of ‘win the war, not the battle.’”

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